NEW HAMPSHIRE—Blue-books are still closed and Harvard’s exam rooms won’t open for business for another four hours when Gregory M. Schmidt ’06 steps out into the dark, frigid New Hampshire morning.
Today he will face a test of a different sort than any of his classmates back in Cambridge: former Vermont Gov. Howard B. Dean, his favored candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, is about to begin the last day of the nation’s first primary campaign.
“Hope not fear, that’s the name of the game,” Schmidt says, echoing the slogan emblazoned on the Dean sign he is carrying out to his car.
It is early on Tuesday, Jan. 27, and Schmidt has made the drive up to Nashua, N.H., because he hopes to influence the outcome of this crucial election, where several candidates find themselves neck-and-neck in one of the closest races for the nomination in recent memory.
“This is probably the most exciting presidential primary that I might ever live through in my next 30 years,” says Andrew J. Frank ’05, the president of the Harvard College Democrats and a supporter of Sen. John R. Edwards, D-N.C.
Student groups on campus have sent up delegations to campaign for candidates including Dean, Edwards, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn. Over the course of the fall semester, these students have forayed north, leaving behind the Yard and Lamont to enter the alternate universe that swallows this small state every four years.
They are there, adding their voices to the dull roar of the crowded Democratic field. As the candidates descend on New Hampshire, all eyes look to a primary that can turn the tide of the national election.
“I’ve been telling everyone that my most important exam is the New Hampshire primaries,” says Nicholas F.B. Smyth ’05, the president of Harvard Students for Kerry. “Too bad it won’t go on my transcript.”
Later on Tuesday, Kerry will ride to a convincing victory at 39 percent of the vote, with Dean coming in second and Clark and Edwards neck and neck for third and fourth place. But before any results are in, the students from Harvard will hit the streets of New Hampshire in an effort to make a difference, however small, in their candidates’ vote totals.
Around 10 a.m on Monday, Jan. 26, Smyth leaves an unfinished paper behind him and starts up his van.
The Granite State’s polls will open in less than 24 hours.
Joining him are J.T. Scarry ’07, also a Crimson editor, and Adam T. Thomas, a second-year student in the Kennedy School of Government’s doctoral program in public policy.
All three say this round of shoe-leather campaigning will trump earlier ones.
“In the past we’ve been turned down a lot because people don’t want to talk about politics that early,” says Smyth, who is also a Crimson editor. “Today [we] can say the election is hours away.”